In my pocket I have one of the most sophisticated pieces of technology around, an iPhone. And a wallet.
Inside that wallet resides:
- three payment cards
- my driving licence
- zipcard and oyster card
- business cards
- moma, pokemon, and a few other nonsense cards.
It’s unavoidable that I must carry these things, and whilst I could perhaps thin these items down by one or two, ultimately there will still be a sixteenth of an inch of cards that I must carry. I don’t thin them down because I know that the day I stop carrying my zipcard will be the day I need a zipcar. Eye rolling will ensue.
Not only this, but everyone carries these. I can appreciate that there are dozens of companies trying to compress these items into my iPhone, but let’s be real for a moment and accept that you’ll be carrying this burden for another decade or two at least.
What wallet do you carry? I find noticing peoples wallets to be a curious window into their attitudes about product design, it speaks about them. None negative, the adage of judging people by their shoes? Judging them by their wallet – and not even the wealth inside – is far more appropriate.
Those expensive Yves Saint Laurent or COMME des GARÇONS wallets? Spending many hundreds of dollars on a wallet is exactly the same as spending hundreds of dollars on a t-shirt. The designer cared about the wallet, but he knew the you’d buy it regardless. Does anyone do the best work of their life like this?
Is caring about this a monumental ode to materialism? I don’t think so. My wallet is with me even more than my dog.
Over the past decade, I have churned through wallets. I know far too much about how to design and construct a lowly wallet. I’ve lived with, sat on, drunkenly accessed, and eventually become dissatisfied with every single wallet I have seen.
The curious thing about a wallet: the use case is the same for every person in the first world. “I have some stuff and I have to carry it with me at all times. I need to access it in a hurry, in the dark, in the rain, and when my hands are full.”
One card slot is not enough. I have many cards but only two types: cards to pay with, and everything else. When I want to access the former, seeing the latter is redundant. More over, one when I want the other gets in the way.
So put the most frequently used cards at the top or bottom of the stack. That works, but you then reach the second issue with a singular stack of cards: the only way to readily access the cards, is to bend them back on themselves and peel one out. Damaging to the cards and your fingers.
Some wallets – bi and tri fold wallets – have card slots. Now you’re constrained. Surplus card slots are wasteful, too few card slots and you’re scuppered.
Wallets lack the thing that motivates almost every buying decision I make. They are not built to last. Cotton rips, stitching comes apart, and plastic is plastic. Why does this matter? Because I want to be done. I don’t give a shit about my wallet, it doesn’t get me paid and it certainly doesn’t get me laid. When I am in line for a bar, I momentarily get annoyed at my wallet when it gets in my way, and then I forget entirely about it, until it gets in my way again. The moment passes, it doesn’t ruin my night, it’s just a moment. I want a wallet, and then I want to never think about it again.
Actually that is a lie, my dream wallet, every time I use it, I’d think “thanks industrial designer, thanks for making this good.”
And then there are iPhone wallets. I have only ever seen one case for the iPhone that is not terrible (this one) and even then – well don’t get me started – all iPhone cases are questionable. Babies don’t get dropped because you pay attention when you’re holding them, why are you not offering the same courtesy to a thousand dollar device?
And then Noah released a wallet:
- It’s leather. Leather is beautiful. Whereas every other material depreciates with age, leather does the opposite.
- This wallet is crafted from a singular piece of leather. There are two seams. Have you ever studied machining, textiles of woodwork? I have: the fewer seams the better. If you want something to last, minimise the seams.
- Inside the wallet there are two card slots. You’ll comfortably fit half a dozen cards in each, or one card. Moreover: its easy to see and then extract the card you want. I promise.
- There is a huge fold for notes. For some reason I have three currencies in my wallet. And this isn’t a problem for this wallet.
- It’s thin enough. You have to break it in, it’s leather, but it’s about as thin as an Apple desktop mouse. It is not a front pocket wallet, but it is not going to cause you sciatica.
If you’re read this far you’ve crossed the Rubicon. You need a new wallet.
And this is it. It’s the perfect wallet.
Your kids will inherit it.